My Shadow Ballot, Part 1

Well, given I recently posted about voting, and about voting early during these unusual times, I guess I’d better get my shadow ballot out early as well!

12 ballot initiatives in California this time around.  Not the worst, but still a big number, so let’s dive in.  This is part 1, about of half of them…

Prop 22 – “App-Based Drivers”

I’m going to make no bones about this one.  The app-based gig economy and their companies – of which Uber is the poster child for bad behaviour – are all, currently, nasty affairs.  Here’s a little tip:  if your company cannot survive (or so you say, anyway) without paying your workers like crap, then you do not have a company.  Getting all creative and calling them “contract workers” so you can avoid paying them a fair wage, providing them with healthcare and benefits, time off, sick days, compensating them for the wear and tear on their vehicles, and etc is not good business, it’s theft-y shenanigans.  Yet that’s what these companies are all trying to do. Uber even claims “we’re just a connection service” while dictating both the terms and cost of service.  Further, they only do one thing, which is provide rides for people – without drivers, their company doesn’t exist.  Thus, they are hiring employees to provide the service they offer.  Please don’t get cute with us; we’re not stupid.

Ok, so here’s the meat of this ballot measure.  California passed a law that closes the loophole that lets Uber and their ilk bilk their employees, and this ballot measure is an attempt at an end-run around said law.  In essence, it is seeking to allow the companies to exempt themselves from employee protection laws and continue to treat their workers like crap.  Oh, it sounds nice: minimum wage guaranteed, some health benefits offered, etc, but it’s all smoke and mirrors.  Minimum wage guarantee; but only while actively driving, not while waiting for the next rider.  And all else still falls short of what you’d expect from being an employee, including sick time, vacation pay, and affordable health insurance access.

The initiative advertising makes the case that “many of our employees prefer to be independent contractors so they can set their own hours”.  The latter part I could believe… but there’s no reason why you can’t allow flexible schedules without making them employees.  And here’s the key – you could have right from the start treated them as human beings and given them what is needed to lead a decent life.  Sure, the ones who drive 5 hours a week, they get their 5h pay and out, but those driving the equivalent of part- or full-time ought to be treated as such.  You could do it.  You’re actively resisting to do so.  Why?  Because it would bankrupt you?  Then, again, you do not have a company.  You have a scam.

Uber itself admits it would only cost 20% more to treat its employees right.  It doesn’t want to.  This ballot initiative is shady and improper.  I would vote NO.

Prop 15 – “Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties”

Prop 8 had a great sounding premise: “Cap property tax increases so grandma doesn’t get kicked out of her house.” Which is, indeed, great!  But while the effect on homeowners was nice, it was a clever  ruse… because it’s real intention was getting that same rule applied to business/commercial property, properties that are owned by a company.  And so while new owners may buy or take over the company, because the property itself doesn’t technically “change hands” (still owned by the same company) it never gets its tax base revived.  Sneaky… and detrimental.  You have land whose tax liability is based on the property value 20, 30, 40 years ago.  And voila… no more tax base for communities.

This new measure seeks to undo that by splitting the Prop 8 measure.  Residential remains as-is, while commercial and industrial properties would now taxed based on their market value.  There are some safeguards as well, with certain exceptions for small businesses, and the whole thing would be phased in with input from the legislature, which, to note, I am very glad for, otherwise it would take another ballot initiative to change things.  There are some aspects I’m less sanguine about, including that a good chunk is earmarked for education (this lacks flexibility), but on the whole this is solid and fair and long overdue.

California counties and cities have been strapped for cash due to this initiative, and this aims to redress the balance.  I would vote YES.

Prop 25 – “Replace Cash Bail”

Ugh, bail.  Regressive, unfair, and kind of weird when you think about it – why should money have anything to do with whether you’re released before trial or not?  Why do we expect the rich to have more rights?  They shouldn’t.

This proposition is a referendum on SB 10, a law that replaces cash bail with a risk assessment.  And while risk assessments aren’t, heh, without risk (this year especially we are seeing how entrenched discrimination and bias is within the policing and judicial system) the bail system is regressive and penalizes those with less means.  Sure, bail is supposed to be something that entices someone to return to court by imposing a fee so great you don’t want to forfeit it, but those who are comfortable can afford the fee from a bonding agency while it’s a big blow and burden that will last long beyond the trial for those who are financially on the edge.  (Which means they are penalized even if they are innocent!)

The opponents of the measure, who are primarily those in the bail bond industry, are trying to frame this as a matter of choice, ie, saying everyone will now have to stay in jail, and this will tear families apart.  Not what the bill says, though, and it even explicitly limits detention for most misdemeanors.

This is a good step forward for criminal justice reform.  I would vote YES.

Prop 17 – “Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole”

Time in jail is supposed to be penitence and a time for reformation, to “set one straight” so they can “get their life together” and go forth into being a productive member of society.  Parole is the transition back to that latter part.  Allowing them to vote provides an opportunity to feel a sense of agency and to feel invested in the community.  This is a good thing.  I would vote YES.

 Prop 18 – “Primary voting by 17-year Olds”

This one is simple:  if you’re 17 and will be 18 by the time the election rolls around, you can vote in the primary.  Sounds reasonable, and anything that gets more young people invested in their governance is a good thing.  I would vote YES.

ADDENDUM regarding Prop 22:  Apparently the hidden poison pill in the proposition (one reason I really dislike the proposition process) is that if it passes, any future laws or regulations to govern the gig economy wound need a 7/8ths majority vote in both chambers to pass.  This would create the proverbial situation of the fox guarding the henhouse, and we’ve all seen how that worked out with Boeing and the 737 MAX.   So not just no, but HECK NO on this proposition.

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